Archie: A legend of our time

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Rugby coach extraordiniare Archibald Perera was a true legend of St Peter’s. In this article, former Peterite captain Frank Hubert writes how Archie took him under his wing and set him on the path to a great rugby career.

 

I STARTED my rugby career at St Peter’s only because the legend Archie saw me alone one day on the grounds and asked me to kick this funny-shaped ball.

I had never played or watched a rugby match in my life until this happened, as I had come down from the UK in 1968 with my dear dad and only knew and played football.

Archie told me that since I was Donovan Andree’s grandson and Alfie Hubert’s son, I had rugby in my veins and it helped that I had a “big bottom” which he said was the main ingredient to be a fly half!

He played me in the U-15s as a winger the following week against Royal and I got smashed up badly and after the game he asked me if I still wanted to play rugby. I said “yes”, and haven’t regretted this since.

This was the start of my rugby career blessed by this wonder­ful man who I always consid­ered my father and mentor.

When I was 16 years, he asked me to be the official linesman for the College First XV, cap­tained by the one-and-only Jef­frey de Jong. I dutifully did this for the whole season. St Peter’s were unofficial school champi­ons that year.

Archie told me that I would play at fullback the next season and he trained me and nurtured my talents – I could kick with both feet due to my football days in Tottenham, England.

I trained for more than 3-4 hours daily, including the week­ends, practising my catching and kicking skills.

In 1973, Archie felt I was good enough to play in Rohan Wiratunge’s team, originally as a fullback and then as fly half when we lost some players due to the “two-year rule”.

A well-known fact is that I missed the penalty in the last minute against Trinity and with it a chance to break the hoodoo but it’s forgotten that I also scored the try, converted it and put over a penalty, giving us a lead over Trinity until a missed tackle by our winger allowed them to score and take a one-point lead.

After the match I cried for more than two hours but Archie gave me a hug and told me that I had played very well and that I was unlucky to hit the crossbar with my kick.

I told Archie that I would not rest until we beat Trinity and that I would help him to do so.

Fate would have it that this did not happen for some time even with me as captain in 1975. But, as promised, I supported Archie as assistant coach once I joined Havelocks.

In 1979, whilst at Havies and my wife Jennet being heavily pregnant with our first daugh­ter Rebecca, I still came to help Archie and referee the house matches.

In 1982, Archie died of an asthma attack after getting wet in the rain, coaching the boys as usual. I had told him to go into the pavilion but as always he was stubborn and gave me a good telling off for coming five minutes late.

I knew he was not well, so I got the college van down and took him home and we had a glass of whisky together and parted, saying we would meet the next day to choose the team to play Sathisara that week.

Sadly, Archie was taken to hospital that night and died the next day. I managed to be with him before he died and again he showed his love and devotion for St Peter’s, telling me not to postpone the match even if he was not fit to come.

He just told me: “Frankie, this is your team. Now go and teach them everything I taught you and make me proud.”

I did not realise at the time that he knew he was dying and was passing the mantle to me.

We gave Archie a great fare­well, befitting a man of his stat­ure and legendary status.

Now I had a mission to keep my promise to Archie and I worked very hard to build a team that would beat Trinity.

We actually beat them at Bog­ambara in 1984 but the referee unbelievably played an extra nine minutes until they scored.

Virtually the same team beat Trinity the following year just after I left for a job in the Middle East in 1985. This brilliant team was led by Ranjith Abeygoone­wardena and I am proud to be associated with all of them.

I owe everything to Archie who had the love and kind­ness to help a young, lonely boy achieve so much in his life.